By now, I assume many of you are familiar with this guy:
This is Arnold Abbott, a 90 year old homeless advocate in Fort Lauderdale. All around the country, media is splashing headlines:
90 YR OLD ARRESTED FOR FEEDING THE HOMELESS!
Florida Activists Arrested For Serving Food To Homeless!
...on and on and on the headlines go. But what if I told you this is a great, big, fat lie? Because it is! There is no such law in Fort Lauderdale banning advocates from feeding the homeless! HERE is the law that was broken:
Feeding sites are not to be more than 500 feet away from each other and 500 feet from residential properties. Only one group is allowed to share food with the homeless per city block.
500. Hundred. Feet.
If you live in Chicago, for comparison, that's about the distance from Randolph and Michigan to Randolph and Wabash. It's less than 1/10th of a mile.
I'm not here to sing praises of the mayor of Fort Lauderdale. I don't know the guy and, really, in this case, it doesn't matter if he's a saint or a jerk. What I am here to tell you is that this ordinance is in place for a good reason. Have you ever talked to homeless people who live on the street? If not, please do. Ask them what it's like when charitable organizations come in set up food stations, serve delicious meals, and then go home. Usually, they leave their mess behind. And guess what happens when they do. I'll give you one, big, visual hint:
These guys come. In DROVES. And - news flash! - the closer feeding stations are to one another, the more concentrated the leftover garbage... which means more rats. And guess what else? Fort Lauderdale is one of the 10 most rat-infested cities in the USA. Think about that for a moment.
We all know that rats carry diseases which, in and of itself is a problem. But, if you truly want to help the homeless, consider this: what do you think rats do at night when you and I are all cozy and snug in our beds? I'll tell you exactly what they're doing: they're tormenting homeless people who live on the streets. I've spoken with countless homeless people who can tell you - in vivid detail - how they have to break bottles and fill in sidewalk cracks with the shattered glass before laying down their cardboard sleep mats to discourage rats from coming up through the cracks in the pavement to dig around in their clothing. Sounds like fun, hey? No, thank you.
But allow me to get to the heart of what really makes me angry as a homeless advocate who works hard to coordinate with and respect others who are also out to help those in need. Mr. Abbott and his friends were asked to move their station one block away and they refused. Why? Why?? The new ordinance is in place to provide safe, sanitary accommodations to the homeless who are being served. It's also geared toward encouraging advocates to work together. Why does Mr Abbott feel this is such a bad thing that he's justified in breaking the city ordinances? I don't get it. If Mr. Abbott wants to serve the homeless, he is welcome to do so - either provide a portable bathroom for the homeless he's feeding outside (a reasonable request) or invite them to come eat at his church. If you're so willing to jump on the "pro Chef Arnold" band wagon, have the common decency to read what the city of Fort Lauderdale has to say about their ordinance here: Fort Lauderdale Mayor's Office Statement on Homeless Initiatives
So many of us work tirelessly every year, forgoing our own family holiday celebrations, weekend down time, and more. We follow our cities' rules and we learn to do what needs to be done within ever changing guidelines. Why should Arnold Abbott be any different than the rest of us who are out there doing the same thing without breaking any laws? It's not fair to anyone and it's certainly not helping the homeless a whole lot either. On the surface, it seems like he is doing a good thing and, overall, I do believe his intentions are good. But he's actually contributing to the problem and making things worse. And look. 500 feet between feeding stations is NOT worth breaking the law over. Being obstinate for the sake of gaining media attention does nothing to make things better for anyone except Mr. Abbott's own 15 minutes of fame and that kind of stinks.
If you really have compassion and you truly care to help the homeless, please, Please, PLEASE share this post with everyone you know. The truth needs to be told and these rah-rah bandwagon news sites are much more interested in getting clicks than they are on getting the truth out! Aren't you sick of being lied to all in the name of a dishonest feel-good story? I know I am, and you should be too!
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